What does the Trump victory mean for Indigenous people?

Indigenous people on both sides of the Canada/U.S. border are worried a Trump victory is a blow to environmental causes and could lead to an increase of militarized police responses to demonstrations.

Trump's victory at the polls a loss for Indigenous rights and environmental struggles, some fear

Indigenous people on both sides of the Canada/U.S. border fear Trump's victory could mean intensified clashes with police, like incidents on the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe reservation in North Dakota. (Tom Stromme/The Bismarck Tribune)

Indigenous people on both sides of the Canada/U.S. border are worried a Trump victory is a blow to environmental causes and could lead to an increase of militarized police responses to demonstrations.

On the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe reservation, where thousands of people have gathered in opposition to the contentious Dakota Access pipeline for months now, there was disappointment the morning after — but still hope that outgoing President Barack Obama could somehow act.

"The results of last night's election indicate that we as a country have so much work to do," said tribal chair Dave Archambault.

"We believe halting the Dakota Access pipeline presents a unique opportunity for President Obama to set a lasting and true legacy and respect the sovereignty and treaty rights of Standing Rock and tribal nations across America."

Trump win a 'green light' for industry

Others, however, don't share that optimism.

"I think Trump will increase pressure with law enforcement and make it impossible to get any sort of resolution, because the company wants to get that pipeline moving," said Mark Trahant, an independent journalist, University of North Dakota professor and member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribe.

A person with a hand drum paces between law enforcement officers and a line of protesters along North Dakota Highway 6, south of St. Anthony, N.D., Monday, Oct. 10, 2016. (Tom Stromme/The Bismarck Tribune)
'It's a green light for industry."

Trahant also believes there will be a reignited push for construction of the Keystone pipeline from Alberta, which the previous administration vetoed — and which many Indigenous groups vehemently opposed.

'Open violence at the hands of the police'

In Standing Rock on Wednesday, some believe the election results mean the police response to demonstrations will only intensify from now on.

"I don't know how much worse it can get," said Tara Houska, an attorney and member of the Couchiching First Nation in Ontario who has been at Standing Rock for months.

"We already seen that our safety is not a concern, that [police] are willing to mace women and children. We're reaching the point of just open violence at the hands of the police."

Fear of Republican control

On Wednesday, the National Congress of American Indians, the country's largest and oldest Indigenous political group, issued a terse but conciliatory press release.

"As Americans and as First Americans, we look forward to working together," read the statement from NCAI president Brian Cladoosby.

But there's fear among Native American groups, Trahant said, that with Republicans now in control of the Supreme Court, House of Representatives and senate, policies and laws that deal with Indigenous communities could be repealed — including Obamacare.

"[The Republicans] have promised to repeal the Affordable Care Act and in doing so, that includes the Indian Health Care Improvement Act. If they repeal it, how do they fund Indian health services?"


Tim Fontaine is a Winnipeg-based writer who has worked for APTN National News and CBC Indigenous. You can follow him on Twitter: @anishinaboy.